The Novartis and Roche names are synonymous with Swiss pharmaceutical innovation. But for these two Basel-based global behemoths, what value does Switzerland itself hold and what do they see as the areas in which they can truly bring value in their home market?
Roche – Driving Digital & Personalised Care
Roche’s Thomas F. Schmidt sees his affiliate as having a crucial role in building a digitalised and more personalised Swiss healthcare system. As a native of Denmark – which is relatively advanced in the implementation of tools like electronic patient records – Schmidt has been surprised at Switzerland’s tardiness on this front. He notes that “With the level of innovation that exists in Switzerland, I think we have to do more. We need to leverage this unique position along the entire healthcare value chain to drive progress and advancement on the digital side because it already is and will become even more a central aspect of healthcare development.”
Our focus is shifting more and more towards co-creating solutions with customers and stakeholders to ultimately benefit patients
Schmidt adds that Roche is looking to engage in this digital push in collaboration with other actors. “Our focus is shifting more and more towards co-creating solutions with customers and stakeholders to ultimately benefit patients,” he states. “Overall, we want to deliver better medical outcomes at lower costs to society, which needs finding new and different ways of working.”
Some projects that Roche is already engaging in on digitalisation and personalised medicine in Switzerland include a Foundation Medicine Inc. (FMI) laboratory at the Zurich University Hospital which has created a next-generation sequencing test that offers personalized treatment options and suggestions; a pilot of the NAVIFY® tumour board, a cloud-based workflow product that securely integrates and displays relevant aggregated data into a single, holistic patient dashboard for oncology care teams to review, align and decide on optimal patient treatment; and a project on value-based healthcare with the University Hospital of Basel.
Novartis – Cell & Gene Solution Generation
As the company behind the first FDA-approved cell and gene therapy, Novartis is increasingly positioning itself as a thought leader and engaged stakeholder on the complex questions of pricing and access which surround these treatments, the costs for which can run into the hundreds of thousands. This is particularly true in Switzerland which, as Vincent Gruntz, general manager oncology for Novartis Pharma Switzerland, points out, “has one of the highest densities of centres certified to treat patients with CAR-T therapies worldwide.” He adds, “In Switzerland, we have a leading position in terms of research, production – especially with our new facility in the north of the country for our CAR-T therapy – as well as patient access.”
Given that we are based in Novartis’ home country, we want to be in the leading position when it comes to solution generation. We are not sitting around waiting for others to come up with a solution but instead taking the lead
However, despite this footprint, bringing CAR-T therapies to Switzerland was not a walk in the park. “Swissmedic gave fast approval but having submitted the reimbursement application for the CAR-T therapy as a drug, we were then made aware during the process that it needed to be applied for as a medical service,” explains Gruntz. “This requires a very different route. Therefore, we had to find a solution, together with all the health insurance companies and the individual hospitals, which was extremely time consuming and difficult.”
Novartis managed to surmount these challenges and find a reimbursement solution for 100 percent of the Swiss population in 2020, but the teething problems faced perhaps showed that the Swiss reimbursement system was not ready for CAR-T. Looking forward, Gruntz hopes that his affiliate can be more involved in surmounting these issues. “Given that we are based in Novartis’ home country, we want to be in the leading position when it comes to solution generation,” he opines. “We are not sitting around waiting for others to come up with a solution but instead taking the lead.”